It’s a design project!



This is the third installment of a series of posts about my key learnings as a Design Strategist within the Office of Scholarship & Innovation. On July 16th, I will transition to the Office of University Initiatives as a 2019-2020 University Innovation Fellow. Thank you to the Design Initiatives team and all of #oofsi for the adventure!

A not-so-long time ago, in a galaxy not-so-far, far away, two Design Initiatives team members spent 13 months together ideating and challenging each other to come up with creative, impactful, and sometimes weird ideas to try out.

I would say there is no other person on the team that I enjoyed brainstorming with more than Claire. I can’t count the number of times we set up shop in one of our offices or outside Farmer to just spout off possible ideas for projects and creative ways to deliver and facilitate our ideas. Like two superheroes setting off to save the city, we’d exclaim, “It’s a design project!” at the conclusion of each of these sessions. This brings me to my favorite piece of the design process – ideation.

When working on a team that is still pretty new, it can be tough to figure out what you’re supposed to do or where you’re supposed to go. This also means that you have the freedom to try anything. The environment within the Office of Scholarship & Innovation is one built on a foundation of psychological safety. Wild, whimsical, outrageous, and sometimes seemingly impossible ideas are welcomed and encouraged.

Not everything we dreamt up actually came to fruition, and that’s okay. That’s not the point of ideation. The sequence of thoughts from their original concept to a place without any constraints gives designers the chance to dream big and dream crazy. It is only then that we are able to really create solutions that may affect change. While working with Claire on a variety of projects, the word “impossible” was never uttered by either of us. The plethora of ideas we generated eventually led to something that would be implemented… or not. Again, that’s totally okay.

I thank Claire for the opportunity to float ideas back and forth with her without any fear of ridicule or judgment. By the way, one of the key rules to ideation is to suspend judgment (of your ideas and the ideas of others). Ideas that we generated might be filed away for use at a later time. Ideas we prototyped might have been learning moments (doublespeak for failures). We also had some shining stars emerge too. Regardless, the practice of ideating in a safe environment with a thought partner as creative as Claire is one I am grateful for and will genuinely miss from my time working at #oofsi.